we still need to mark Womens Day
As human resources general manager at Brandstätter Group - Malta,
Antoinette Caruana has a hectic work schedule. With Womens Day
just behind us, she tells MIRIAM DUNN of her disappointment that so
much of the female sector of the workforce is still entrenched in traditional
Have you always been career-orientated, or did you become aware
over time that your work was important to you?
My career was an evolution more than anything else. My mother always
worked, so I was brought up in that kind of environment and when I married,
I didnt really consider stopping.
My career path did, however, change. When I was younger I wanted to
be a teacher, but I rethought that idea and I started working at the
bank. While there, I felt I wanted to push myself a bit further, so
I decided to return part-time to university. This was a very fruitful
period in my life - I loved studying and also discovered what I wanted
to do management.
I was lucky in that the bank supported me, but I decided I wanted to
make a break and move in a different direction.
That was 12 years ago, when I applied for the post here of human resources
manager. Things were very different then. The concept of human resources
was not so developed, in fact I regard myself as very fortunate to have
been involved in the changes taking place in this area, especially culture
changes. I also remember being told they probably wanted a man for the
job, while other people had a misconception about the sector I was going
into, asking me why on earth I would want to leave the bank to go and
work at a factory!
How do you manage to combine work with your home life?
I have had two children in the past eight years and didnt really
take much time out to have them. In fact, I was back at work within
weeks each time.
I have a very supportive husband, which played a major factor in helping
me pursue my career and I was also given good assistance by the people
in my department.
External factors make a big difference, but I also believe that part
of it comes down to personal drive how much you want to achieve
your dreams irrespective of whether youre male or female.
Nothing comes on a silver plate and things werent always easy.
For example in our case, my husband and I had to take the decision to
find childcare since my mother worked. That was a big decision, to find
someone we were able to entrust with the children.
I think I was also fortunate in that Brandstätter is a forward-looking
company with a female boss, which Im sure made a difference.
People were already used to having women in managerial positions, so
attitudes were changing, so to speak.
I think that women are sometimes disheartened about trying to combine
a career and family life because they are unfortunately given the impression
that it is a glamorous existence, while the truth is that it is a lot
of hard work. Let me stress that theres nothing wrong with opting
to stay at home and look after the family I dont think
any of us would want to see a demise in our family values but
perhaps more women would contemplate working as well if the life of
a working woman was portrayed more realistically.
We have just marked another national womens day. How far have
we come in helping women who want to pursue a career alongside family
Actually, during last weeks activities to mark womens day
I made the remark that Im not keen on the idea of having a womens
day, its almost demeaning. But when I look at what a lot we still
need to achieve, I revise my views on these sort of activities, because
they do, at least, draw attention to the issue.
My own belief is that if we want more women to return to or stay at
work, then yes, we have to persist in changing the mentality, but we
also have to build the right infrastructure, including putting childcare
facilities in place that are professional.
Do you endorse a policy of positive discrimination?
Im very cautious about positive discrimination; I am involved
in a number of organisations and I would hate to think I was a token
woman in any of them.
What we need is to ensure that the women who are working in key areas
are recognised and rewarded properly for the important contribution
they are making. Unfortunately, as we all know, women still tend to
focus on the traditional areas, such as teaching and the caring professions.
We still need to address the issue of the shortfall of women in certain
sectors of the workforce, especially since these are often areas that
are developing and expanding, such as IT and engineering.
At Playmobil, for example, our workforce used to be primarily female,
but today, now that the work is much more technical, the female workforce
How has Playmobil kept ahead during the international economic changes
we have witnessed?
I think part of Playmobils success during its 30-year history
since it was set up in Malta has been its willingness to change with
the times, and never take success for granted.
Every stage of the companys life has been formative.
The management has always been very aware of the need to retain Malta
as a stronghold for the company. Playmobil was set up here at the same
time as a number of other German companies came to Malta and they all
had the same reasons for opening here, such as the tax incentives.
But if we hadnt moved with the times, we wouldnt be here
About 12 years ago we reached the conclusion that if we were to remain
in Malta, we needed to change the way we worked. We invested in two
key areas - technology and the training of people. We set ourselves
targets of where we wanted to go and how we were going to achieve them.
We are also very aware of what is happening around us, both in Malta
Of course, tantamount to all of this is our customer. We are particularly
mindful of what our customers want, and the fact that their needs change.
And what does this year have in store for Playmobil?
We have a very busy year ahead and our order books are full, which is
great news for the company.
The coming year will involve a move since we will be opening a new factory
in Hal Far which the government is building, while we will be providing
all the infrastructure.
It is an exciting project, since we will be simultaneously completely
changing our production system to be able to deal more efficiently with
our customers orders. The new system will combine the various
functions in our production, ensuring we are more product-led.
Playmobils management is divided into four main areas; production,
technical investment, corporate services and human resources. We view
it as essential that there is full involvement when we discuss making
key changes, and obviously its not always plain sailing, but I
am pleased to say that most of our people view change positively.
Do you think Malta is gearing up for the changes that todays
There is no doubt that Malta is changing. And these changes have to
take place irrespective of whether or not we join the European Union.
We have to get our act together and we certainly have to move away from
the idea that anyone owes Malta a living. This is simply not true. It
is up to us to perform, to show we can do it. On the positive side,
there is evidence that industries in different sectors are making the
I think much will be determined by the management; both of the country
and private companies.